The Department of Justice has sued casino mogul Stephen A. Wynn to compel him to register as an agent for the Chinese government, the DOJ announced Tuesday.
On multiple occasions, Wynn, a Republican donor who has been embroiled in scandal in recent years, conveyed to then-President Donald Trump the Chinese government’s request that the U.S. remove a Chinese businessperson who was seeking asylum in America, according to the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday. The Department claimed that Wynn was acting to protect business interests in Macau, a special administrative region of China.
The move — the latest development in the DOJ’s ramp-up of the Foreign Agents Registration Act enforcement — represents the first civil lawsuit under FARA that the Department has initiated in more than three decades. The DOJ alleged that Wynn was tasked with doing the bidding of the People’s Republic of China, and Sun Lijun, China’s former vice minister for public security.
Lawyers who have represented Wynn did not immediately return a request for comment.
Wynn became involved in the scheme after Sun asked former Republican National Committee finance chair Elliott Broidy and others to lobby the administration on the matter around May 2017, the Justice Department claims. Broidy then enlisted Wynn as well, according to the complaint.
Wynn, another former RNC finance chair, had opened three casino properties in Macau, the DOJ said, adding that Broidy believed those dealings combined with his time at the RNC and friendship with Trump would make Wynn particularly useful with the matter.
Wynn conveyed the request at a dinner with Trump and other administration officials and sought meetings with administration officials and Trump himself, according to the complaint. The DOJ said his contacts included two former White House chiefs of staff and two senior NSC officials.
During a telephone call from a yacht between Wynn, Broidy and Trump, Wynn inquired about the request, and Trump said he would look into it, the complaint said.
The efforts were unsuccessful. Around October 2017, Wynn asked Sun to stop contacting him and said he was unable to assist further, DOJ claimed. The DOJ argued that he was “motivated by his desire to protect his business interests in the PRC.” It pointed to articles about Wynn Resorts’ dealings in Macau.
The complaint alleges that Wynn refused to register under FARA when asked by the Department in three separate letters dating back to 2018.
Broidy was criminally charged as part of a larger scheme, which included illicit lobbying around the federal government’s actions around the embezzlement of 1Malaysia Development Berhad. He was pardoned by Trump.
“The filing of this suit — the first affirmative civil lawsuit under FARA in more than three decades — demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring transparency in our democratic system,” said Matthew G. Olsen, assistant attorney general of the DOJ National Security Division. “Where a foreign government uses an American as its agent to influence policy decisions in the United States, FARA gives the American people a right to know.”
This is far from the first time that Wynn has found himself with less than favorable headlines. He stepped down as chair of Wynn Resorts and as RNC finance chair in 2018, amid accusations of sexual misconduct. Wynn has denied the claims against him.
The Justice Department has in recent years outlined its intention to ramp up enforcement of FARA. In 2019, the DOJ forced RM Broadcasting to register its work for Russian state-owned media, after it filed a counterclaim against the company.
“That just shows that the department — unlike in the past — may not be taking no, a determined no for an answer,” said Matthew Sanderson, a FARA attorney at Caplin & Drysdale. “This is the latest sign that they’re using all the tools in their tool bag to try to bring people into compliance.”